Should I use a finish on a cedar chest?

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Forum topic by Purrmaster posted 02-03-2013 12:36 AM 9507 views 0 times favorited 6 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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915 posts in 2114 days

02-03-2013 12:36 AM

I’m planning on making a small chest out of aromatic cedar. The traditional cedar chest. After searching the forums I’m seeing conflicting information on what to do with cedar chests.

The question is: should I use any finish at all on it? I want to preserve the cedar scent. And I doubt it’s going to get banged up a lot.

On the other hand, I’m uncomfortable with not putting any finish at all on a project. And cedar is fairly soft stuff. I’m assuming that any kind of finish I put on the wood is going to seal up the wood scent. Even if I just do the outside. On the other, other hand I have a mild concern that the cedar scent will be too strong and perhaps objectionable.

So what are your experiences? Is it ok to leave it unfinished? Should I finish just the outside if I do finish it?

If I do use a finish I’m leaning towards using shellac.


6 replies so far

View Handtooler's profile


1573 posts in 2153 days

#1 posted 02-03-2013 12:49 AM

Commercially manufactured chests seem to have a clear varnish applied to the outside only. And many are constructed of other materials and lined with tongue and grove aromatic cedar.

-- Russell Pitner Hixson, TN 37343

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20206 posts in 2705 days

#2 posted 02-03-2013 12:57 AM

I have always left the cedar un-finished on the inside of a chest. I have also made one chest out of solid cedar. Three coats of poly, on the outside only.

and the inside

Note: to bring back, or renew to “Cedar” smell, just scruff sand it.

-- A Planer? I'M the planer, this is what I use

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1573 posts in 2153 days

#3 posted 02-03-2013 01:06 AM

Beautifully done Bandit!

-- Russell Pitner Hixson, TN 37343

View TCCcabinetmaker's profile


932 posts in 2376 days

#4 posted 02-03-2013 01:23 AM

for wood movement purposes finish the outside, but don’t finish the inside as you will lost the cedar smell on clothes. I made a cedar chest and waited five years to finish the outside, big mistake, should have finished the outside a long long time ago.

-- The mark of a good carpenter is not how few mistakes he makes, but rather how well he fixes them.

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11758 posts in 2401 days

#5 posted 02-03-2013 03:08 AM

I’ve always been taught that what you do to one side, you do to the other but my dad made a cedar chest in high school and only finished the outside; 60 years later it hasn’t warped or changed.

-- Rick M,

View Grandpa's profile


3259 posts in 2697 days

#6 posted 02-03-2013 03:18 AM

I made a cedar chest in high school. I graduated in 1965 so do the math. I believe I built that chest when I was a junior in high school. I was taught to not finish th einside because you lose the smell and the ability to drive moths away. I put boiled linseed oil on the outside. It makes the color come out and it get beautiful in a hurry. Then sanding sealer is was applied over the oil. # coats of laquer was applied over that with sanding between coats. Rubbed the last coat with 0000 steel wool and put on Johnson’s paste wax. Looks as good today as it did when it was built. If you don’t put on a finish coat the outside will dull in time and not be so attractive. BLO will make the cedar rich in color.

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